Life has been so absolutely amazing and filled with activity since our last post. We’ve started class and are even taking a couple courses in German! After attending class for the first week with the courses I (Lea) had picked from abroad with the computer science faculty, I realized that my passion lies elsewhere. The exchange staff at ETH were extremely supportive, and thus it looks like I will be able to switch to take my courses with the Masters of Environmental Science program, specializing in Sustainable Water Resource Optimization.
Since travelling to Jordan last year, and experiencing firsthand what it is like to live in a country where one cannot drink the tap water, and the entire country relies on bottled water, I have been intrigued with studying this issue. I am now almost officially doing a minor in Environmental Engineering at U of T, and absolutely loving my courses here at ETH! It makes such a difference when you are studying something you are passionate about!
I (Hanna) also switched many of my courses, from Bioengineering to Management of Technology. I was originally planning on completing a minor in Bioengineering, but it turns out that U of T might accept my Bioengineering courses from Budapest (where I was on exchange last semester) so I decided to take courses which I can hopefully get accepted as core courses, so that I will only have to return for 1 semester of 4th year!
The world is one small place! Last night at the Déjà Bu party in our apartment’s basement, we met a guy who we had skated with at an international exchange event in Toronto two years ago! It was quite a funny conversation: he introduced himself as a physics student here, and mentioned that he had studied on exchange in Toronto a few years ago, and remembered having some intense conversations about life with two Hungarians. He has a completely different hairstyle now, so we didn’t recognize him at all, and started commenting how interesting it is that we met a guy in Toronto who had the same first name and was studying the same thing! And then he pulled out his cellphone and it had a picture of us from the skating party two years ago… It is definitely worth it to get involved in the exchange student network, even at your home university. You usually find fascinating people, and you never know when and in what part of the world you will bump into those friends in the future!
The greatest challenge about living here is the Swiss German. It legitimately is another language from High German, and is very widely used, so it is hard to find opportunities to use your High German on a day to day basis. Thus, Hanna and I have started a weekly Deutsch party at our apartment whose goal is twofold: to create a greater sense of community between the exchange students, and to offer an opportunity to speak German with others who are learning.
Since we have posted last, we went skiing to another incredible mountain in the Swiss Alps. It feels so weird to draw the parallel between the phrase: “the Swiss Alps”, an epitome in the skiing world, and our backyard. We hop on a train every Saturday and in an hour or so, we are soaring down some of the best ski slopes in the world, high above the clouds, with the tips of the mountains showing out above the cloud layer in a splendid panoramic view.
This weekend we are heading to the mountains yet again, but this time for another sort of experience. We will be spending the weekend in complete silence in a monastery high in the Swiss Alps. In today’s world, lived at a rat race tempo, we both find that it is an incredibly valuable experience to spend some time in contemplative silence and prayer, to start the semester with deep peace and defined goals. We’re taking the train as soon as we finish writing this. Can’t wait! Tschuss!